Saturday, May 24, 2008

This Small Matter of Semantics..

Sometimes, working out of the house sucks!!! Its uncanny how a domestic problem crops up every time I sit down to work with a steaming mug of coffee - sometimes its unannounced guests or a shortage of sorts or perhaps just some forgotten chore which rears its ugly head at the most inopportune moment. Thankfully, life in the big city comes with certain perks and prime amongst these is the dial for anything under the sun option. Be it food, laundry, payments for telephone and credit card bills or groceries and movie tickets, all one needs to expend is a phone call and some sound byte!!! And for things that cannot be rung for ,say like Ging's kibble, well there is always Gamma moggie to fall back on.
So today, it was with much enthusiasm that I decided to get a head start on my weekend chores by ordering in supplies from the grocer round the corner.
" Hello Murugan Stores. Calling from # 20, Arundale Beach Road"
" Madam. ..solingo" [ Tamil for please tell me]
My chirpy smile wanes and the enthusiasm goes down a notch... Just my luck that I got the Tamil speaking delivery boy, who never seems to be able to make sense of my pidgin tamil!!!
" Owner illa? No Tamil..English peshanam"
I enquire hopefully but the silence which follows is deafening!!!...He must have been trying to figure out the safest way to hang up on the crazy cat lady who lives down the road, without invoking her now legendary wrath, and probably thought I would hang up on my own accord if he kept quiet. But the optimist I am, I decided to feign ignorance at his predicament, and give it one last shot. And this time with an extra helping of feminine charm.
" English? Hindi? No Speak?"
And I hit pay dirt. The boy who speaks pidgin English seems more than willing to accommodate me and responded with equal enthusiasm:
" Illa Madam..konjam konjam English speak...little little..u solingo..I give home"
I suspect he was trying to improve his English but what ever was his reason, I had to hand it to the boy for his puppy dog effervescence and interest. Emboldened by the fragile communication link we had established, I proceeded to reel off from my list.
" U write..ok?"
" Madam?"
" 1 Bread, 20 eggs...umm...egg mean motta, ok?"
" Madam?"
I must confess, his madam pronounced with a question mark was beginning to grate on my nerves...What could it possibly mean - yes, no, I didn't get u....What???. Gritting my teeth, I forge ahead...
" tomato 1kg, onion 1kg"
" Tommaaaaattttoooo...approm..err, nexte madam?"
" Onion....err, savala? " [savala = Malayalam for onions]
" Savola...madam?"
" yes, yes..Savala...onions...pyas..."
Hey, this is going better than I thought it would...despite all those questioning madams which I now assume is 'ok' or 'gotcha' in some unknown alien language, we are actually communicating!!!
" Jaggery 1/4 kilo"
*silence* Ok, I get it...this one's flown right over his head but hope springs eternal in the moggie breast and I once again resort to my mother tongue.
" Sharkara?" [Malayalam for Jaggery]
" oooohhhh, Sharkara..seri seri..approm madam?" [ Seri = ok, Approm = next]
" approm, Potato 1 kilo....Tide soap..Phenyl...Pril "
" Madam?"
" Yes, podum...finish...home delivery? Time solingo?"
" 30 minutes madam"
I rang off with a grin which would have given the Cheshire Cat a few moments of self doubt. Congratulating myself on my efforts and resourcefulness, I settled down in front of my laptop awaiting my groceries, which incidentally put in an appearance a good two hours later. Not that it fazed me a bit. I was still beaming widely as I retrieved each item from the shopping bag for storing away. Soap, Floor Cleaner, Eggs, Bread, Tomatoes, Dish Cleaner....err, Saffola brand Vegetable Oil????....And Sugar???
This wasn't even remotely funny. Where were my onions and jaggery?
I tried calling the friendly neighbourhood grocer but just couldn't get through. The delivery boy must have taken the phone off the hook, in the vain hope that the crazy cat lady would give up and make do with what was given to her, rather than undertake a walk to his shop in the scorching heat. But, he sadly underestimated the crazy cat lady who can be quite a demented soul, when on a mission. After umpteen futile calls, I grabbed the offending articles and marched over to the grocer.
" ithu enna...." I demand huffily
" Savola Madam!!!..Sharkara..." *round eyes* He obviously thinks I have lost it!!!
" No, no..Ithu Saffola..I want Savala...Onion!!!....And I want jaggery..."
*blank nervous stare *
I look around me desperately, hoping that a good Samaritan would materialise out of thin air. But no such luck. Suddenly, I spy a sack of onions tucked away inside the shop and hop around gesticulating at it.
" That onion....I want"
Before I can go on a rampage within the shop, the owner appears and commands the boy to bring forth some' Vellom" and lo behold, the jaggery materialises miraculously out of thin air. Well, I presume it was thin air because I was so excited to see the jaggery and onions that I did not bother to check where the loot was stashed.
Clutching my prizes in either hand, I trotted home wondering why every other person I met, outside this state, automatically assumed that my knowledge of Malayalam would help me breeze through conversations in Tamil!!! Seriously, isn't it amazing how the most brilliant of ideas can so easily be rendered redundant by this small matter of semantics???

4 comments:

miranda said...

Hilarious rekz, u write effortlessly and it is all so entertaining..how is it there's a Murugan stores at every corner in Madras!:)
hugs Merry

Rekz said...

LOLS...Thank you Merry...
Interesting point that....I have been just so busy trying to survive in Chennai that I hadn't noticed....LOLS

AJIT NAMBIAR said...

vengayam(onion in english) ennu parayanam Madam [:p]

pinne size pole chinna vengayam , Periya vengayam ennum try chythu nokam ;)

Good that you can atleat pull it of with malayalam in Mad-raz but at Bangalooru I had tough time even after knowing decent Kannada

Rekz said...

Ajith, I now know Vengayam pakshe aa order cheyyan samayam varumbol, I forget and only savala comes to my mouth!!!...But after this episode, you can bet on Murugan Stores not forgetting what Onions are...LOLOL...I don't know how I manage in Chennai...Day before I asked for bananas and I got a cauliflower!!!
Bangalore was more difficult in terms of the language but I managed pretty well...Mostly because I spoke in Hindi and they understood...